NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cancelled a visit to India, the Indian foreign ministry said on Friday, amid tensions in a northeast region where he was due to hold summit talks with counterpart Narendra Modi.
Two people were killed in Assam state on Thursday when police opened fire on mobs torching buildings and attacking railway stations in protest at new citizenship rules signed into law on Thursday.
The new law lays out a path of Indian citizenship for six minority religious groups from neighbouring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which protesters in Assam say would convert thousands of illegal immigrants into legal residents.
Modi had planned to host Abe in Assam beginning Sunday as part of a campaign to move high-profile diplomatic events outside Delhi to showcase India’s diversity.
“With reference to the proposed visit of Japanese PM @AbeShinzo to India, both sides have decided to defer the visit to a mutually convenient date in the near future,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet.
Japan has stepped up infrastructure development work in Assam in recent years, which the two sides were expected to highlight during the summit. Abe had also planned to visit a memorial in the nearby state of Manipur where Japanese soldiers were killed during World War Two.
A movement against immigrants from Bangladesh has raged in Assam for decades. Protesters say granting Indian nationality to more people will further strain the state’s resources and lead to the marginalization of indigenous communities.
Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta, Assam’s police chief, said that there had been no clashes between protesters and police on Friday. “Things look better definitely today ...(but) forces are all deployed everywhere,” he told Reuters.